Narcotic Drug Offences in Turkish Law

Turkey is an important transit country. It also represents a large consumer market. The production and import or export of drugs are punishable by a prison sentence of not less than 10 years, and sale or supply by a sentence of 5-15 years. Punishments are linked to drug type, with a specific requirement to increase these sentences by 50 % if the drugs involved are cocaine, heroin, morphine or morphine base, or synthetic cannabinoids; a similar increase is imposed in cases in which a group of people is involved or in which those convicted hold a position that are regulated by law, such as doctors, pharmacists or other health professionals. If organised crime is involved, the penalty is doubled.

Narcotic Drug Offences in Turkey

Narcotic Drug Offences in Turkish Law

Turkey is an important transit country between Europe and the Middle East. It also represents a large consumer market. Located on the Balkan route, it is a key transit point for illicit drugs, such as heroin transported from Afghanistan to Europe, sometimes in exchange for acetic anhydride (the main precursor in the production of heroin) or synthetic drugs. Although traditional trafficking methods by land, sea or air dominate in Turkey, an increase in the use of postal packages has been noted, in particular for new psychoactive substances.

Types of Drugs

Cannabis products, originating primarily from western Balkans countries or Morocco, are the most frequently seized drugs in Turkey. Domestic cannabis cultivation has been reported, although it is rarely trafficked outside the country.

Cocaine enters Turkey from South America, destined for the domestic market or in transit to other European countries, Azerbaijan and Iraq. The majority of large cocaine seizures take place in the international sea ports on the Mediterranean coast.

Captagon tablets (or tablets displaying a Captagon logo containing amphetamine as their active ingredient) produced in south-east Europe are smuggled through Turkey en route to countries in the Middle East. A small proportion of these Captagon tablets is destined for the domestic Turkish market.

Methamphetamine, produced in the Far East, enters Turkey through Iran or arrives directly by air. MDMA/ecstasy seized in Turkey originates from the Netherlands and Belgium and has traditionally been seized in the western parts of the country, although reports on seizures of MDMA in the eastern provinces have increased in recent years. Synthetic cannabinoids, which appeared on the Turkish drug market in 2010, originate from China, Europe and the United States. Some reports indicate possible processing and packaging activities of these substances in Turkey

Personal Use of Drugs

The Turkish Penal Code specifies prison sentences of 1-2 years for those who buy, receive, cultivate or possess drugs for personal use. There is also the option of treatment and/or probation of up to 3 years. If drug users refuse treatment or do not comply with their probation requirements, the courts can impose a prison sentence. No punishment will apply if a dependent user requests treatment before investigation; in such cases, healthcare professionals are not obliged to report the offence.

Treatment

The current national strategy outlines treatment-related objectives that focus on facilitating drug users’ access to treatment and care services that meet the established standards and protocols. The implementation of drug-related treatment in Turkey is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, and the Science Committee for Substance Addiction is responsible for its national coordination. Since the end of 2013, Provincial Healthcare Directorates have been authorised to license and supervise substance use treatment centres.

Drug treatment is provided by the Alcohol-Substance Addiction Research, Therapy and Education Centres, psychiatric clinics in public hospitals under the Ministry of Health, university-based treatment units and some private hospitals. The majority of these institutions provide inpatient and outpatient treatment. Funding for drug treatment services is mainly provided by the state through social or health insurance funds. Most drug treatment services treat dependency in general, providing treatment for both alcohol and illicit drug use.

An essential part of the drug treatment programmes in Turkey is detoxification, which is complemented by other interventions consisting of motivational interviewing techniques and cognitive therapies that aim to prevent relapse. Pharmacological treatment with opioid agonists or an antagonist is also available. Some treatment centres provide short-term residential treatment, and some non-governmental organisations provide treatment communities.

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) using buprenorphine-based medication has been available in Turkey since 2010. All treatment centres that are licensed by the Ministry of Health can provide OST. Up to 80 % of OST medication costs are covered by general health insurance; clients contribute the remaining 20 %.

Article 191 of Turkish Criminal Code

Purchase, receipt, possession or use of narcotics or psychotropic substances for personal use is regulated by the Article 191 of Turkish Criminal Code.

Any person who purchases, receives or possesses narcotics or psychotropic substances for personal use or uses narcotics or psychotropic substances shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of two to five years.

In respect of any suspect subject to investigation initiated as a result of this offence, the court decides suspension of opening of the criminal case for five years irrespective of the conditions set out in Article 171 of the Code of Criminal Procedure dated 4/12/2004 and no. 5271. The public prosecutor, in such case, warns the suspect of the consequences to occur if he does not act in accordance with the obligations imposed on him in the course of the suspension period or contravenes prohibitions.

In the course of suspension period, a probationary measure shall be applied for at least one year in respect of the suspect. This period may be extended by the public prosecutor’s decision for, at most, one year in periods of three months.  The person in respect of whom a probationary measure is applied shall also be subject to treatment within this period if found necessary.

A criminal action shall be brought against the person in the event that he, in the course of the suspension period,

  • insists on not complying with the obligations imposed on him or requirements of the treatment applied,
  • purchases, receives or possesses narcotics or psychotropic substances with the intention of re-using the same,
  • uses narcotics or psychotropic substances.

Purchase, receipt and possession or use of narcotics or psychotropic substances by the offender in the course of the suspension period shall be considered as a ground for breach shall not be subject to any separate investigation and prosecution.

Re-commission of the offence

In respect of investigations initiated, with the allegation of re-commission of the offence, after initiation of a criminal action, the court shall not decide to suspend initiation of a criminal action.

A decision to discontinue the criminal proceedings shall be taken where an offender complies with the requirements specified above and does not contravene the prohibitions during the suspension period.

Where the acts specified above are performed in collective buildings and facilities used for treatment, educational, military and social purposes such as school, dormitory, hospital, barrack or place of worship and in public places or places open to public at a distance of less than two hundred meters from their boundaries established by the surrounding wall, wire fence or similar barriers or signs, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half. 

 Trading Drug

The production and import or export of drugs are punishable by a prison sentence of not less than 10 years, and sale or supply by a sentence of 5-15 years. Punishments are linked to drug type, with a specific requirement to increase these sentences by 50 % if the drugs involved are cocaine, heroin, morphine or morphine base, or synthetic cannabinoids; a similar increase is imposed in cases in which a group of people is involved or in which those convicted hold a position that are regulated by law, such as doctors, pharmacists or other health professionals. If organised crime is involved, the penalty is doubled.

Production and trade of narcotics and psychotropic substances are regulated by the Article 188 of Turkish Criminal Code.

International Trade

Any person who produces, imports or exports narcotics or psychotropic substances without a license or contrary to an existing license shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of twenty to thirty years and a judicial fine of two thousand to twenty thousand days.

Where, as result of the exportation of narcotics or psychotropic substances, a penalty is imposed, after a trial, in a foreign country for the importation of such substances, such penalty shall be deducted from any penalty imposed in Turkish criminal proceedings for the said exportation.

Domestic Trade

Any person who offers for sale, sells, supplies, administers the movement of, transports, stores, purchases, receives or possesses narcotics or psychotropic substances, without a license or contrary to an existing license, inside the country, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years and a judicial fine of two thousand to twenty thousand days. However, in the event that the person to whom narcotics or psychotropic substances are delivered or sold is a juvenile, the imprisonment sentence to be imposed on the person delivering or selling the substance cannot be less than fifteen years.

Where the offence concerns heroin, cocaine, morphine or basemorphine; where the acts of trading are performed in collective buildings and facilities used for treatment, educational, military and social purposes such as school, dormitory, hospital, barrack or place of worship and in public places or places open to public at a distance of less than two hundred meters from their boundaries established by the surrounding wall, wire fence or similar barriers or signs, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half.

Where the offences in the aforementioned paragraphs are committed together by three or more persons, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half or where committed in the course of the activities of an organization established for the purpose of committing an offence, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one fold.

Any person who imports, produces, sells, purchases, administers the movement of, transports, stores or exports any substance, requiring the permission of the authorities for importation, which, although not having a narcotic or psychotropic effect, is used in the production of narcotics or psychotropic substances, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of not less then eight years and a judicial fine of two thousand to twenty thousands days.

Where an offence of drug trade is committed by a physician, dentist, pharmacist, chemist, veterinarian, health officer, laboratory technician, midwife, nurse, dentistry technician, patient-care nurse, person providing health services or person engaged in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half.

Security measures specific to legal entities shall be imposed where an offence relating to the production and trading of narcotics and psychotropic substances is committed in the course of the activities of a legal entity.

Facilitating the Use of Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances

Any person facilitating the use of narcotics or psychotropic substances by:

  • Providing a particular environment, equipment or material;
  • Taking precautions in order to ensure the avoidance of the arrest of any users, or
  • Providing information to others about the method of usage

shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of five to ten years and a judicial fine of a thousand to ten thousands days.

Any person who publicly, or through broadcast media, encourages another to use narcotics or psychotropic substances, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of five to ten years and a judicial fine of a thousand to ten thousands days.

Where this offence is committed by a physician, dentist, pharmacist, chemist, veterinarian, health personnel, laboratory technician, midwife, nurse, dentistry technician, patient care nurse, person providing health services or a person engaged in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half.

Effective Remorse

If a person, who participated in an offence concerning the production or sale of narcotics or psychotropic substances, provides the authorities with the names of any other parties to the offence, or the place where the narcotics or psychotropic substances are hidden or produced, before the authorities themselves receive such information, and the information given by him leads to either the seizure of the narcotics or psychotropic substances or the arrest of other parties to the offence, no penalty shall be imposed.

If a person, who purchases, receives or possesses narcotics or psychotropic substances for his own personal use, provides the authorities with the name of the supplier and the date and place of supply and the information given by him leads to either the seizure of narcotics or psychotropic substances or the arrest of offenders, before the authorities themselves obtain such information, no penalty shall be imposed.

Where a person voluntarily serves and assists (in the investigation of an offence which leads to) the arrest of the offender, or other parties to the offence, or to the illumination of the offence, after such offence has been communicated to the authorities, the penalty shall be reduced from one fourth to one half according to nature of the assistance.

Where a person who uses narcotics or psychotropic substances makes an application to the authorities or medical institutions with a request to receive treatment before the commencement of any investigation arising from his purchase, receipt or possession of said narcotics or psychotropic substances, no penalty shall be imposed.

Around 2 in 10 prisoners in Turkish prison population were sentenced for drug law offences; the proportion of drug law offenders among all prisoners has been on the rise in recent years.

Recent Cocain Operations 

Panamanian authorities seized 616 packages of cocaine that were hidden in a container full of boxes of bananas, originating from Ecuador and destined for Turkey, judicial and security officials of the Central American country reported on 6’th April 2021.

Colombia’s anti-narcotics police seized almost five tons of cocaine on 9 June 2020. The drug was in two containers that would travel by sea from the port of Buenaventura, to the southwest, to Turkey and would cost 260 million dollars in the illegal market

© Prof. Dr. Vahit Bıçak

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